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Aleks Krotoski on the web rewiring us, our relationships, and our addictions (Video)

Presenter Aleks Krotoski and Programme 4 director Molly Milton talk about the themes being explored for the fourth episode of Digital Revolution. (This was filmed at the end of last week before Aleks flew out to the US to start filming programme 1).

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  • Comment number 1.

    Closing words: “Whether or not our thesis throughout the four programmes has been supported or not.”

    Could you define a bit more specifically what that thesis is (and what its components are)?

    A comment on addiction: I think there is evidence of addiction (compulsive behaviour, obsessive responses) to material on the web - or to use of the Web itself.

    There certainly seem to examples that come up in the media, often in court-reports (Anecdotal maybe, I don’t know how much systematic research there has been?), whilst there also seems to be evidence that some have gone through addictive phases to video games.

    To give some other examples: those that post day-after-day to HYS (& use multiple avatars to game the system etc); to maintaining Facebook status updates, to checking Twitter updates, to using immersive gamming experiences such as Second Life or the use of gambling or porn sites etc.
    Possibly many people have an addictive streak; what varies is how it is triggered.

  • Comment number 2.

    "There is no evidence whether the Web, games or any of those are addictive or anything." --- Aleks Krotski.

    If so, there's no need for China, Holland and now the US to open addiction clinics for Internet addiction, hmmn?

    * https://news.zdnet.com/2100-9595_22-334211.html

    * https://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/mar/23/news.internet?gusrc=rss&feed=technology

    Admittedly, China did this July stop its electric shock treatments but the conclusion was that there was no evidence that the treatment worked rather than that there's no evidence that Internet addiction could exist.

    * https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-07/14/content_8426874.htm

    See the importance of semantics and lost in translation possibilities?

    Also for addiction, please see the gaming academies in South Korea where gamers can earn up to US$150K to play games for 18 hours a day and their gaming addiction is considered to be a status badge.

    Re. relationships, here are some key parameters:

    --- trust
    --- authenticity
    --- openness
    --- blocking / social exclusion
    --- collaboration

  • Comment number 3.

    As per my suggestion previously, it would a good idea to interview Dr. Michael Wensch for this program.

    * https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gmP4nk0EOE

    * https://mediatedcultures.net/youtube.htm

    He won the 2008 US Professors of the Year award for his work on online communities and identities.

    There are a handful of people in Western tech circles who are particularly insightful and witty about the Web and he's one of them. The others are TBL, Vint Cerf, Alan Kay, Mohanbir Sawhney (https://www.theglobalbrain.net/reviews.html%29, Dharmenda Modha and his IBM team (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f74KiwIJvw4) and Esther Dyson.

    The Oriental ones.........well, subtitles and loss in translation for Western audiences may apply.

  • Comment number 4.

    In my very first post I asked who your target audience is, and today SheffTim is asking what your thesis is. A little more clarity about what you want would be nice.

    A friend of mine observed that you seem to be 'talking to the old guard' and went on to add that he'd learned more from a 17yo youtuber than he did from a week at TED.com - just passing that on. Do we have any young people posting here? I have a feeling that most of the posts are from older folks. We're talking about what kids are doing, but the kids are not telling us.

    Hmmm, not as a criticism, but as an observation: this seems to be being run in a very top-down manner. We're back to the idea of the public providing free content for people who are getting paid. It's not really 'collaborative' but then again, I can't think of any better way to make a TV program. Just a thought.

    Relationships: are you looking at online dating as well? Some of those sites are huge, and should be of interest to program 3 too. https://www.worldfriendsnetworks.com/ operates a shared database and handles the money, leaving their partners to market and brand the service in their own name. So you sign up in English at "BBCdates.com" and make contact with someone who registers, and anwers all the questions in their own language, via some other site that is popular in their own country.

    Changing us: Brain-wiring is one issue, but what about the impact of all this interaction on our values? How about our assumptions when we share our ideas with people? Do we share more or less of our own ideas? File-sharing is technically theft, but widely accepted. Does this change our ideas about intellectual property, and is the law at odds with society's values? If we're willing to sacrifice data for free content, why aren't we willing to carry ID cards? I think you should look more closely at what people think, and where the gaps are, as well as how people think.

    Addiction: I mentioned this already, but not very clearly. Is 'net addiction' in fact an escapism? Is the truth that the modern human environment is not suited to our psychological processes, and the web is the place where things make more sense? Along the same lines, here's a theory that intelligent life has arisen elsewhere in the universe but never bothered exploring it because gaming was more fun. https://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_print.html

    The article is a bit one-sided because it assumes that the real world is more important than the ones in our heads. It sides with the economists and politicians who tell us that more consumption is good.

    Imagine what would happen to the world economy if, instead of a bigger house and a new SUV, people aspired to virtual success instead. Imagine what would happen to the environment if we stopped driving around, stopped making stuff we didn't need, and were content with basic sustenance, a pod to live in, and no limits to our achievements except our imaginations.

    Would we even need a government? What form would a government take if the population was largely disinterested in real-world issues? It all makes me think of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_to_Reality_%28Red_Dwarf%29

  • Comment number 5.

    Also, what about 'hurry sickness'?

    The constant need to be connected and doing stuff must be a form of addiction.

  • Comment number 6.

    More context please from interviewees of these demographic segments:

    * 12-17
    * women
    * tech investors and tech entrepreneurs (not just online social commentators)
    * silver surfers (55+ age group who are online)
    * non Anglo-Saxon netizens

    In the overview, Aleks mentions examining 12, 18, 30, 50 and 70 year-olds' online habits.

    It's interesting the 20-somethings and 40-somethings are missing and they're the ones who matter since they're either:

    (i.) coding the most bleeding edge apps to take the Web to the next level.

    (ii.) financing the Web's development.

    (iii.) determining the new "rules".

    Non-Anglo-Saxon insights are important because the rate of innovation in South East Asia exceeds the US and the UK. Oriental social networks also started to monetize and become profitable YEARS before the likes of Facebook.

    Under identity, it's worth examining why and how it is corporate identities don't translate online across digital borders as readily as first thought (see Google's forays into China) and whether this is also true for personal identities.

    Does what an Anglo-Saxon think about the Web and their identity crossover on an Oriental site?

  • Comment number 7.

    Dan Biddle is away for a few days, so here's my thoughts on what you've said (I'm the multiplatform producer on Digital Revolution).

    In answer to SheffTim's question about the programme thesis and its components: I'm talking to the series producer, Russell Barnes later today, and I'll get a proper answer from him - it reflects the headline idea in the title, that the web is driving a major revolution in our lives - and trying to work out what that change is, or if (in some cases) it's been overblown. The components are the themes of each episode. For programme 1, is the web a 'great levelling', or are order and hierachy re-asserting themselves? For programme 2, is the Internet undermining governance and the nation-state? For programme 3, how much of ourselves are we giving away online, to drive the modern web economy? For programme 4, how is the web changing who we are?

    Picking up on TaiwanChallenges' point about the old guard - I think that it's true that the programme will feature what are often described as 'The Great and the Good'. The programme itself is aimed at a BBC2 audience, many of whom won't be familiar with all these people and their thoughts. But there will also be plenty of other less familiar contributors. The suggestions you've made here all seem really interesting. Some I know (such as Michael Wensch), others I don't (such as Mohanbir Sawhney). A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT mentioned non-Western interviewees - I know that Molly is interested in finding good interviewees in South Korea, so any suggestions there would be very helpful.

    Which brings me to TaiwanChallenges' point about whether this project is still a bit too 'top-down'. This is a really experimental project for the BBC - launching a website months in advance of the programme is very rare, and opening up the production process is pretty much unprecedented. When you say 'I can't think of any better way to make a TV program', you really hit the nail on the head - TV production is a well established, smoothly oiled, and pretty fast running machine! Trying to introduce new ways of thinking and working is a challenge. But we're lucky that the TV team all buy in to the idea, and all read the site and your comments, and try to factor them in to their programmes. I'm sure what we're doing could be improved - and that at the end of this project we'll ask for your suggestions on how to do this ;-).

    But I hope it doesn't feel all like one way traffic. In a few weeks time, we will be starting to put up rushes from early filming on the site - and we've secured a permissive licence for these rushes which means that you and other users will be able to download them, edit them, and publish them for non-commercial use. And at the end of the project when the series is transmitted, we'll have an interactive version of the documentary on the site - and that will include links off to content suggested by all of you, which may not have made it into the programmes.

    And as to what we actually want - your comments on these threads with their mix of intellectual debate and interesting case studies are endlessly fascinating and inspiring. I think this thread is a real case in point. There are sometimes more specific questions, which Dan B tweets or puts out in his roundups.

    I'll ask Molly to add her thoughts and anything more specific about what she's after for programme 4. I know that Aleks would like to comment as well, but she is away filming at the moment - hopefully between the New Mexican pancakes and rocket launches she'll get a moment!

  • Comment number 8.

    It’s great to see Programme Four is already sparking comment and debate.

    I’m literally just about to post what I believe are the key ideas of this programme and the key thinkers I’m already in touch with.

    As the next few weeks go by, given what is being said on the web and what is discussed in research meetings these ideas will be condensed into a thesis. This thesis will then be further refined through out the filming period.

    To pick up a few comments.
    SheffTim and A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT both point out that there is very real evidence of internet addiction. I agree - although Aleks clearly doesn't - so that will be something that we will have to talk through in the coming weeks - and discussing further on the blog! I'm thinking about visiting South Korea to see what one of the most wired up countries in the world can tell us about this technological revolution.
    We also need to be aware that gaming addiction has been studied in greater detail than addiction to the internet.
    This debate is also taking place in the USA by the APA as they decide whether internet addiction can be included in their 5th of the DSM. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – published by the American Psychiatric Association. The Korean Government also sees internet addiction as a national problem and have a government department called ‘Internet Addiction Prevention and Counselling Centre’ based in Seoul.

    TaiwanChallenges reminds us that it is people under the age of twenty, real Digital natives that we should be listening to in this programme. I agree. The experiment that Aleks and I talked about in this blog post, which we're planning with Professor David Nicholas at UCL, really will help inform us in the ways this generation may or may not be changing. (It is this experiment that is being referred to when we mention different ages online habits – not that these are the only ages we will be looking at in the programme).

    We are also keen to speak to young people not just from the UK but from further afield. As A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT says, the rate of innovation in South East Asia exceeds both the UK and the US – which is why this part of the world will feature in this programme.

    I believe that this programme is incredibly close to all of us, because at it heart we are trying to answer the question what makes us, us? What makes us who we are, who we think we are and the relationships we form? Is understanding the web actually about helping us understand us and our society? Or is this new technology actually changing us? I really look forward to debating these issues over the next few weeks.

  • Comment number 9.

    Thanks for your clarifications, Dan.

    I have a proposal/question: "What is BBC policy about possibly assigning production credits in the 4-parters to the commentators and those who participate in the content mashups, which will form part of the project?"

    Also, if I may make a suggestion. This blog structure isn't an optimal or most revolutionary format to openly crowd-source.

    The team could try to leverage some of these tools and/or collaborative models:

    * https://knol.google.com/k (it's like Wikipedia except allows for more media embeds + comment versioning)

    * https://moodle.org/

    * https://www.mindmeister.com/

    * https://cohere.open.ac.uk/

    * Swarm of Angels, crowd sourcing to finance and produce films. Website is currently being re-designed but you should try to contact MATT HANSON.

    As for the South Korea interviewees, contact the founders of:

    * Naver (https://www.naver.com/%29 --- their equivalent of Yahoo!

    * Cyworld (https://www.cyworld.com/index.aspx%29 --- their Facebook

    * Soul of the Ultimate Nation, S.U.N. (an MMORG from webzen, https://sunonline.webzen.net/%29 --- their World of Warcraft

    Otherwise, contact Sunil Gupta of Harvard Business School who has compared Cyworld with its AngloSaxon.
    counterparts. His colleague in S. Korea is Sangman Han of Sung Kyun Kwan University.

    Plus on the issue of addiction consider Cho Kwang-hyuk, a spokesperson for the Internet PC Association. He's previously spoken about internet gambling and the government's attempts to curb it.

    Re. the question of whether the nation state is under attack in South Korea, it's worth noting that cyber criminals do target S. Korean computers. A contact to ask about this would be Ahn Jeong-eun, a spokeswoman for Korea Information Security Agency.


    On "The Great + The Good", it may be more interesting to structure it around "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." The Good would be the likes of TBL, Vint Cerf and the others I mentioned as well as simply REGULAR NETIZENS. The bad would be the black hat hackers and trolls who appear online to disrupt online democracy or steal our identities. The ugly would be the spam advertisers (SEOs specialists) and privacy invaders.

    As an observation, Gary McKinnon's case was quite high profile in recent times. It may be interesting to examine within the context of the "free" and nation state under threat question whether the increasing availability of open source code tools are facilitating people to hack into the DNA of the Web.

    Oh and to my list of:

    --- trust
    --- authenticity
    --- openness
    --- blocking / social exclusion
    --- collaboration

    ANONYMITY needs to be added. The majority of online contributors are anonymous and the laws are changing so that they will be traceable back to us, particularly in potential defamation cases like this scenario:

    * https://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/2009/08/23/2009-08-23_outted_blogger_rosemary_port_blames_model_liskula_cohen_for_skank_stink.html


    I write as A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT not for anonymity reasons but as an ironic statement. It's obvious I'm human and not a machine, :*). I have a GSOH.

  • Comment number 10.

    I have been very unsuccessful in trying to encourage, entice, enthuse the late teens and 20+s that I know who are working at the bleeding edge of web development etc (as highlighted in A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT's three points in an earlier comment) to take part in this whole debate. Unfortunately it would seem they are too busy online making a living, being creative and generally not wanting to go over 'history' which is their perceived view of these programmes.

    On the point about Asian vs Western use of web apps I have been told a UK iphone app developer has a 'Notes' app which is consistently in the top 20 app sales in the West but in the top 7 apps sold in Japan. He isn't sure why but suspects it is because Japanese story 'pictograms' use a 3 to a line format which fits his app. I am trying to get a proper link to this atm.

  • Comment number 11.

    May I ask why I keep seeing South Korea being mentioned? OK, Korea may have the fastest broadband, but the way in which people use the net is influenced by cultural factors as much as technology. Korea is not South-East Asia, btw.

    "Taiwan has undoubtedly one of the most advanced telecommunications networks in Asia," https://www.internetworldstats.com/asia/tw.htm (old numbers)

    I frequently read articles on the BBC about the problems you're having providing the sort of service in the UK that is taken for granted here.

    You want young people from further afield? I can give you a class of 20 Taiwanese teenagers with OK English and video cameras who will be delighted to show you how they use the web. Or university kids if you prefer. We make most of the world's laptops here, an awful lot of phones, more chips than you can imagine, and much much more. Most of my adult students are involved with making or selling hi-tech goods which you're still trying to adopt.

    Addiction: Like I said, I'm not sure that addiction is the right term. But here's a thought... if most of the content on the web is created by a small minority that produces massively more than the average user, then surely they must be the ones who are addicted? In that case, is it true that most of the content on the web is created by people with some behavioural problem? So.... most 'normal' people must be spending most of their time online consuming content created by loonies.

    Or do normal people only look at content created by normal people? In which case we can safely get rid of 2/3 of the web - all the stuff created by the addicts - without losing anything that anyone cares about.

    Just a thought, but it should a verifiable proposition. You just crawl to see who creates the popular pages and see how much other stuff they create. Follow the low-output people and see what kind of page-views they get. My guess is that high-output people get more views per page, so we have the loonies running our online world.

    Gaming: this must have an impact on the brain. Should you be linking up with this experiment? https://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8237945.stm

    Your research with UCL: I'm not clear from your video if you're talking about behavioural change only, or also actual rewiring of the brain, ie neurology. Sophie Scott at UCL did some research into this with regard to Asian and European languages a while ago, which is where I got the whole left/right brain dimension from. (This is something that impacts the debate about language teaching here in Taiwan, and there has been interest in some quarters here for the idea of doing some similar research. These topics are all related, so I'd love to know more about what you're planning.)

  • Comment number 12.

    Just some quick replies. To answer TaiwanChallenges - why South Korea? Well, we had to start somewhere, and South Korea has often been the first. The first country to achieve over 50% broadband penetration per capita. The first country to complete the conversion from dial-up to broadband. I am open to other suggestions, but the value of South Korea is that there's more online history, to see what the effects have been.

    On that front, Thank you A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT for your suggestions. We're going to start speaking to South Koreans at the end of this week and beginning of next. We definitely want to speak to Cyworld; we also want to speak to NCsoft Corp and the Korean Agency for Digital Opportunity & Promotion (who apparently may have recently had a name change). Sunil Gupta of Harvard Business School and Cho Kwang-hyuk are good suggestions and we are adding them to our list.

    Finally, with addiction it’s early days. Some neuroscientists say that it is far too early to see any evidence of brain re-wiring, others disagree – we will explore this more in our research. One area that everyone does agree on is that we should be able to see behavioural changes between the generations, which is why we want to test this.

    In a few minutes I'll be uploading my blog post that sets out in more detail the topic areas of Prog 4 and what I’m really keen to include.

  • Comment number 13.

    Firstly an idea for an experiment; then some discussion.

    Find some people that are heavy Internet users and challenge them to leave the virtual world for a whole month; it'd probably be useful if the Internet wasn't a critical part of their working day.
    No use of the PC at home, replace their web phone with one that just makes calls, take away their laptop dongle. No FB logins, no twitter updates, no checking email, no peeking at their favourite blogs, catching up on iPlayer, internet cafes, library PCs, borrowing someone else's laptop etc.
    Make sure colleagues, partners and friends are told too and asked to note changes in that person's behaviour and moods. Ask the subject to keep a diary of the experience, cravings, relapses etc. Could a web cam monitor their PC too etc?

    If you could find a whole family of heavy Internet users prepared to do so that would be even better.

    One of the difficulties is in defining what 'addiction' means.
    I've had conversations with long term drug and alcohol users (homeless, in and out of prison etc) who don't consider themselves addicts; 'users' certainly, but not addicts or alcoholics.
    How many regular, heavy drinkers discuss whether or not they are alcoholics, concluding that they're not. Hey presto, nothing to worry about then, even if their behaviour hasn't changed.

    There is a danger that by refusing to apply the term 'addiction' to a behaviour then it ceases to exist as a problem.

    There could also be endless debate (and is) as to whether a behaviour is an addiction, a compulsion, an obsession or a full blown Obsessive Compulsive Disorder etc.

    One way drug and alcohol agencies get round this is by asking "Do alcohol and drugs cost you more than money?" (Clearly if they're costing more than you can afford or you sacrifice eating etc for them then that is also causing you problems.)
    The same approach could be taken with Internet usage.

    Signs of Internet addiction, according the ReSTART center for Internet addiction near Seattle; they say three of the following symptoms suggest abuse, five or more addiction.
    I think it could be expanded upon (I've added a little below and reordered it) but it provides an initial framework for discussion.
    Increasing amounts of time spent on Internet. (First thing you want to do on awakening, last thing you do before sleeping etc.)
    Craving more time on Internet, restless/frustrated when not there.
    Obsessive checking of mail accounts/sites etc.
    Losing track of time.
    Internet interfering with job and school performance.
    Heightened euphoria while on Internet.
    Neglecting family and friends. (Preferring time on a PC to human contact, frustration if interrupted.)
    Spending any time away from the Internet thinking about what you'll do when back on it.
    Failed attempts to control behaviour.
    Withdrawal from other activities.
    Changes in sleep patterns.
    Weight changes, backaches, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, reduced physical activity.
    Feeling guilty or ashamed of behaviour.
    Lying to others about amount of usage.
    From: https://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5j0Y3SJLZCeKuGwjLoG38ZAIB8tuwD9AG18EG7

    The argument that gaming, gambling or porn addictions etc can’t be linked to Internet usage, as all are also available offline, won't wash if the majority of those with difficulty controlling their usage of such material either mainly access it via the Web or first came across it via the Web.

    Some organisations focus on particular forms of web addiction, and use different terminology:
    On-Line Gamers Anonymous
    Excessive Gaming
    Obsessive Compulsive Internet Disorder

    Try some Google searches such as this:
    1,130,000 results.
    Internet addiction: 12,600,000 results.

    I posted in a previous post some links about the effects some are claiming online porn have; I believe Dan forwarded them to Mollie. Another is:

    I think it would be difficult to convincingly make a case that Web addiction doesn't happen or is impossible. I'd be interested to see someone attempt such a case.
    If any reader of this is saying: 'of course I could give up but I just really need it at the moment.... I rely on it, etc ' perhaps look at what that means? (I include myself in this.)
    Simply because it has become topical I’ll also return to a point I discussed with Dan in the ‘Is the Web an essential utility?’ post.
    "Can the internet really be placed at the base of Maslow's heirachy of needs along with clean water, food and shelter?"

    I think Ethiopia provides a stark answer: (from last week)

    They can’t drink or eat a PC or the Web. If the Web is to provide water for them then it had better get a move on. For the world’s poor this isn’t just an academic 1st world debate.

  • Comment number 14.

    A suggestion for an interesting interviewee:

    Marissa Mayer
    Vice President, Search Products & User Experience - Google

    One of the original 20 Google employees, an MSc from Sanford in which she specialized in artificial intelligence.

    Forbes magazine lists her as one of the 50 most powerful women in the world (the 50th), and the youngest woman ever to make the list.

    When you see Google, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Earth and iGoogle, you are pretty much seeing her work.

    She is the frontend of Google. Yesterday they released a change on their search page, a larger search box. You could be forgiven for not noticing. Perhaps this is a good example of a woman's touch. We hardly notice changes and upgrades to Google's UIs. Where as in some many other areas upgrades can be painful and disruptive. Perhaps a woman's touch helps that to be a smoother process.


    Just a mashup up of a few ideas. One Google's upgrade and two Ian Pearson's grumble about upgrades. https://www.futurizon.net/2009/09/why-future-will-never-be-perfect-thanks.html

    Perhaps Ian Pearson would be an interesting person to speak to as well, one of the pioneers in professional futurology.

  • Comment number 15.

    A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT - first of all, very pleased to hear that you are a person and not a bot - although I did think that perhaps AI had reached new heights that I was unaware of ;-)

    On credits - we will credit commentators on this site, and link to / feature good mashups. Depending on numbers, the most likely is to credit in full on the website, and refer to that in the TV credit roll. There is no official BBC policy on this yet, as this is the first series for which it is relevant.

    Thanks for the crowdsourcing tools suggestions. We did look at a few of these early on. In the end we decided that what we really wanted was a very timely reaction to themes and ideas as the TV team developed them, and the blog seemed a good and simple technology for that. There are clearly limits to the blog platform though - it would be good to know what you think the really critical ones are. We have set up programme theme pages, linked to from the home page, but I admit they are very simple and give more of an overview than being really useful navigation into critical points of the conversation.

  • Comment number 16.

    Ok, folks, grab a coffee / hot chocolate / brand cola and some croissants and muffins. This is a neural overload of “Fail Whale” proportions and will test the word-limits set on this blog as well as our attention spans and the distraction propensities of digital natives, aka us. It runs at 3,000+ words.

    A bit more and maybe I should think about studying for the multi-disciplinary Ph.D. in Web Science proposed by Tim Berners-Lee et al (https://webscience.org/about/%29.



    @DAN_GLUCKMAN --- haha, well…………..I’m neither AI nor cyborg, just Chinese: I Confucius, I code and I LOL @ incongruities.

    The offer of production credits is really generous, ground-breaking for the BBC and also much appreciated by contributors (I’m sure they’d agree). Thanks to BBCDigRev team very kindly for being so open and Double Dutch about it.

    As for tools, the most flexible and dynamic tool for crowd sourcing a project like this, to enable us to “follow the links in the chain / connections,” would be www.debategraph.com. I say this not because I know one of the founders (a Brit), it’s because the tool allows us to view the arcs of the documentaries:

    • as holistic clusters around topic issues

    • in real-time order (blog threads are ordered by time stamps)

    As an associated point, in recent emails with the leader of MIT’s Collaboratorium project, he and I both agreed that time hierarchy alone is not that great for extracting information to aid decisions or potential directions in crowd-sourcing materials. Of the type necessary for BBCDigRev, say.

    The key question is, “What matters? Sequential or CONSEQUENTIAL?” I would say consequential because that gets us closer to mapping and connecting related topics and how they affect each other or as you called them “critical points of the conversation”.

    Alas I’ve yet to see my ideal collaboration and crowd-sourcing UI (this is why I decided to do a systems blueprint for one --- not yet built, tho’), but debategraph is a move in a good direction. It can compliment BBCDigRev’s blog structure.


    The BBCDigRev team asked whether it might be possible to create a map of the Web. The answer is, “Yes.” Scaleable tech tools exist now (Adobe Flex, Papervision3D, haptics, AJAX, cluster/mind mapping, real-time IM). However, it would take a team of about 50 developers I know to do it.

    Instead, it’s a lot more straightforward and time doable to get 2 or 3 Photoshop, Flash and Maya developers to analogize the Web like the human body as Dan Biddle blogged before.


    @MOLLY --- Thanks for sharing your list of potential interviewees. Interestingly, none of the female interviewees are technologists themselves.

    The woman to approach in terms of understanding online psychology would be……..Mark Zuckerberg’s mother, who is a clinical psychologist. People know FB as a social network. They’re less aware that it’s also a tool for conducting mass online socio-psychological surveys to gather the type of market research that companies want. In my view, Karen Zuckerberg is a key influence in the Facebook founder’s thinking and why he created Facebook in the first place.

    If you contact me, I’ll explain how to get in touch with her.

    Also, it would be a good idea to approach one or two top UI designers (e.g., Kevin Bury of www.linkedin.com ; Athena Anagnostopoulos, female co-founder of Dan4, www.dan4.com ; and any UI designer who reports directly to Erik Huggers, Director of BBC Future Media & Technology. Maybe also people like Jonathan Hassell, who’s done work on UI as it applies to dyslexics; Richard Titus, a former Acting BBC Controller for user experience; and Sally Thompson, head of web experience for BBC World Service).

    They can explain the psychology of encouraging users to navigate to certain pages / threads / community groups to contribute. That, in itself, is re-orienting our brains online --- even if most of us aren’t aware of this and the likes of Professor Greenfield don’t cover it in their academic analysis.

    Finally, in terms of including more female insights from those with practical technical experience rather than those whose perspectives are academic, it’s worth contacting these persons and institutions:

    • Adele Goldberg who is on a par with Alan Kay (an Apple Fellow and my personal hero) in terms of technical genius, in my opinion. She’s contactable via https://www.neometron.com/main/maintechnical.html;

    • Anita Borg Institute (https://www.anitaborg.org/%29;

    • Blogher founders (https://www.blogher.com/founders%29;

    • Mumsnet and Netmums founders (https://www.mumsnet.com/info/mumsnet-netmums-merger%29;

    • Mena Trott, co-founder of Six Apart whose blogging technology, Typepad, drives most blogging platforms like the Huffington Post, which is arguably the most influential political blog site in the US.

    BT’s first-ever female futurologist, Lesley Gavin, could also be added to the interviewee list. (https://www.btplc.com/Innovation/Innovation/lesley/index.htm%29

    TBL’S “MIRROR OF SOCIETY” (program 4)

    The thing about mirrors is that they reflect, refract, fragment, distort and crack. They don’t remember, change, evolve, interact or react.

    I believe that over time we’ll regard the Web less of as a mirror and more as a virtual ecosystem.


    One of the most well-known cases is that of President Sarkozy who allegedly checked his text messages during a personal audience with……..the Pope. There followed guidance from the Vatican that young people shouldn’t substitute virtual relationships for real life human friendships and should give up texting for Lent.



    President Obama apparently refused to give up his Blackberry:

    * https://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/08/us/politics/08berry.html

    * https://www.intomobile.com/2009/01/21/obama-cant-give-up-his-blackberry-keeping-it-for-personal-use.html


    Perhaps contact Matthew Robson (15 and 7 months, of Greenwich London) who contributed to Morgan Stanley’s research report entitled: How Teenagers Consume Media. It got the blogosphere abuzz because it said that Twitter isn’t for teenagers.



    I’ll try not to make any wise cracks about how he compares with Adrian Mole (aged 13 and ¾) or whether his research methodology was robust --- he texted a few friends and thinks his analysis represents a sample population of about 300 teens.

    What I’ve personally noticed, anecdotally, about teens online and how their interactions must be shaping their brains are these key phenomena:



    This is occurring through the various market research-based applications like the ones on Facebook as well as on YouTube threads. Surveys of the type: “Which Harry Potter character are you?” “What does your name say about you?” “What’s your power color?” etc.

    Previously, only girls would be interested in and exposed to surveys of the type that segments them. These surveys would appear in girl’s magazines like Jackie / Cosmo Girl / Seventeen / Teen Vogue. They would enable them to identify, for example, if they were the type of girl who’s into certain types of fashion: Twiggy of the 60s, Madonna 80s, Sex+theCity of 1990s, Gossip Girl / Miley Cyrus / Olsen twins of the 00s. They would talk about it during break times, as part of the socialization process.

    In comparison, boys’ magazines didn’t carry psychology surveys and they weren’t expected to send in their opinions. The football magazines simply profiled the footballers, the Premier League results and tips on how to strike a ball. The comics and graphic novels (e.g., Beano, Animé, DC) would occasionally have competitions for them to send in examples of their artwork, but otherwise they were not engaging in much communication with the magazine company. In a sense, socialization was one-way and somewhat limited.
    Now, BOTH genders are increasingly being equally socialized by the Web in terms of online surveys and opinion collection which allows them to communicate on a par (and anonymously, so boys don’t feel embarrassed about doing so).


    @EARTHGECKO --- neat suggestion. Marissa Mayer cannot only be credited with those Google products and their holistic approach to UI rollouts (she has a keen eye for aesthetics and design simplicity), she’s also the reason there’s a word limit on the Google homepage.

    * https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/what-comes-next-in-this-series-13-33-53.html

    Not to belabor the point, but you wrote:

    "Yesterday they released a change on their search page, a larger search box. You could be forgiven for not noticing. Perhaps this is a good example of a woman's touch. We hardly notice changes and upgrades to Google's UIs. Where as in some many other areas upgrades can be painful and disruptive. Perhaps a woman's touch helps that to be a smoother process."

    Hurrah! There’s no need to ask for forgiveness on my part……….I was aware of Google’s changes as soon as I launched my browser!

    Personally, I CANNOT WAIT for more and smarter women to be able to code and contribute to the DNA of the Web. Then we’ll see what it’s capable of once it can leverage BOTH SIDES OF OUR BRAINS!

    Also, the “women’s touch” is not simply about aesthetics or holisticism / multi-tasking. We can examine and credit C20th women like these:

    • Rear Admiral Grace Murray Cooper who originated the Fortan language (https://cs-www.cs.yale.edu/homes/tap/Files/hopper-story.html%29;

    • Anita Borg who founded the Systers online community in 1987 (long before the likes of socnets like Facebook), https://www.anitaborg.org/about/history/anita-borg/

    • Adele Goldberg who during the 1970s did amazing work on Smalltalk, a forerunner to Squeak as well as some of the object-oriented protocols which control the way we use Apple interfaces today………..


    They provide us with a sense of the type of female computing innovation that the Web, tech more generally and we can benefit with (and from).

    For those interested, a year ago this question was posed on a leading tech blog, Read/Write/Web: “Will the Semantic Web have a gender?”

    * https://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/will_the_semantic_web_have_a_g.php

    * https://blog.aldobucchi.com/2008/08/meet-global-mind-girl-or-boy-hmmm.html

    The Semantic Web is currently what Tim Berners-Lee and the W3C are focused on.

    Aldo and I joked, speculatively, what would happen if we map the development of the Web whose face would emerge. We switched between a cross of David Bowie circa ‘Space Oddity,’ Angelina Jolie circa ‘Tomb Raider’ and Jonathan Rhys-Meyer circa ‘Velvet Goldmine’.

    In other words………..ANDROGENOUS.


    @SHEFFTIM --- Thanks for sharing all those links to addiction-related issues. I completely agree that the Internet can’t be in Maslow’s base and your point about Ethiopians not being able to eat+drink it is very appropriate. The Internet is certainly not a physiological need for survival of our species.

    At best, it’s in the middle layers of Maslow’s model under the love/belonging and esteem definitions. Gradually, it is migrating towards self-actualization --- in so much as its potential to facilitate shared problem-solving is emerging with collaborative technologies. Plus there are signs of spontaneity (with instantaneous tools like twitter’s “What are you doing NOW?”) as well as signs of creativity (https://www.deviantart.com/%29.

    Now, I do want to pick up on that UCLA Medical School research. It’s interesting but it should be noted that they’re referring to digital NATIVES and digital IMMIGRANTS.

    Here’s the thing: according to the work from USC cited in that link (https://www.dispatch.co.za/article.aspx?id=339876%29 and which informs UCLA’s subsequent research into the impact of digital media on our brains, most digital natives (or Generation Y) are under the age of 20 whilst most digital immigrants are over the age of 20 (born before 1990).

    To me, that’s an unhelpful definition. Firstly because their assumption is that people born about / from 1990 have never known a world without computers. Actually the first consumer computers were made available in 1974. Therefore, there are people who are in their 50s and 60s who are digital natives!

    Now, even if we were to exclude the technical fathers of computing, the Web and its key tools in the digital natives definition (people like TBL, Vint Cerf, Alan Kay, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jimmy Wales, Marc Andreessen, Jeff Bezos, Niklas Zennström, Max Levchin, Jerry Yang, Larry Ellison, Pierre Omidyar, Linus Torvalds et al) --- for the purpose of my attempt to provide another perspective to the UCLA findings, the assumptions about digital natives are still not as spot on as they should be.

    To me, a typical non-tech digital native would be someone like Lily Allen who’s on Twitter and who was discovered via MySpace whilst a typical non-tech digital immigrant is Rupert Murdoch who now owns MySpace, doesn’t himself tweet and who identified himself with this label in 2005:

    * https://www.newscorp.com/news/news_247.html

    Point of observation: Lily Allen was born in 1985 which is a full 5-years before the USC’s cutoff point of about/around 1990 as the capture point for digital natives. By USC’s definition, Mark Zuckerberg who was born 1984 would also not be classified as a “digital native”. Only Murdoch would, rightly, have identified himself as a “digital immigrant”.

    Now, we should ask ourselves whether the Web is the cause of the faster response time and the decrease in attention span or whether that’s simply a physiological symptom of…………….age (the velocity of younger brains does tend to be faster and grasp new inputs more readily whereas older brains are better at sifting through and routing that information with wisdom and experience for targeted utility); the increase of media diffusion --- not only from the Web and the computer but also the radio, the TV, mobile devices, even the increase in billboard advertising, marketing flyers through our letterboxes, magazine proliferation, the invention of music videos in the 1980s (for the MTV generation) and content packing in newspapers; and of course………educational evolution.

    For example, over the last 20 years in the UK and the US there’s been a progression towards SAT testing for knowledge acquired over shorter and shorter periods of time and coursework of 3-6 months. Could that be affecting this generation and their brain’s ability to concentrate and retain information more than the effects of the Web or the computer? Could this educational approach be the reason they’re not developing longer-term memories and the ability to recite 3 pages worth of Shakespeare by heart, decades after they’ve graduated from school?

    Instead of developing the attention span to write 3,000 words in an hour-long exam from inputs accumulated over an entire year, they’re only expected to retain it for a few weeks --- enough to complete a piece of coursework.

    See? So it will be interesting to hear what the academics have to say about the Web being the cause for attention deficiencies when, actually, it could be part of other factors like education and the proliferation of marketing.

    Still, just generally speaking, it’s helpful to be aware that there seems to be two emerging schools of thought on digital addiction:

    • No evidence it exists.

    • It exists and people are in denial.

    LOL, sorry more human humor slipped from me there! :*) --- clearly not an AI.


    @TAIWANCHALLENGES --- the differentials in ADHD between the West and Taiwan may be explained by the education systems. Taiwan, like most Oriental systems, is still predominantly based on learning by rote: teacher, blackboard / whiteboard / screen, information, learn it all by heart and collectively recite it all aloud.



    Plus the amount of discipline and attention involved in learning how to write Chinese characters compared with Westerners learning 26 letters of an alphabet means that Oriental kids are wired for concentration in a different way from the outset --- long before they gain computers, games and social networks into their repertoire.

    Additionally, there are also dietary differences. Research indicates that ADHD is affected by the consumption of certain E numbers found in flavorings and colorings in Western carbonated drinks. Historically, Oriental parents tend to give their kids more soya milk, aloe vera juice, coconut water and whole fruits than fizzy drinks.

    However, with globalization and the Americanization of Oriental youths --- including fizzy drinks, music videos etc. --- it will be interesting to track whether their ADHD is on the increase and how to compares vis-à-vis the Web.

    Re your point: “….If most of the content on the web is created by a small minority that produces massively more than the average user, then surely they must be the ones who are addicted? In that case, is it true that most of the content on the web is created by people with some behavioural problem? So.... most 'normal' people must be spending most of their time online consuming content created by loonies…...My guess is that high-output people get more views per page, so we have the loonies running our online world.”


    In BBCDigRev terms, you, SheffTim, earthgecko, Englishfolkfan and others (including me) are high-output people………..Likewise, da Vinci, Elizabeth I, Mozart, Orson Welles, Deng Xiaopeng, Oprah and Steve Jobs were/are all high out-put people...………so if they’re loonies we’re in great company (LOL)--- obviously not that I’m saying any of us are as amazing as those human phenomena, but we are contributing our small but significant bytes……..

    The distinction about what’s been posted onto the Web should be one based on quantity of output and its QUALITY and contextualization.

    Thankfully, with developments in semantic technology we will get smarter filters for all the junk that’s out there on the Web.

    Certainly the quality and context tools are what I’m interested.



    A key reason for why I’m contributing to BBCDigRev is because……I hope that the BBCDigRev team WILL make a program which appeals to a more diverse and global audience than techies, academics and socio-demographic “mirrors” of BBCDigRev team, alone. After all, the BBC is a well-known global organization whose content and media leadership is watched and followed by people of all ages, nationalities, genders, creeds, professions, educational backgrounds, etc.

    Potentially, this documentary series can be…..…..PHENOMENAL in its socio-demographic inclusions and also, consequentially, affect the Web’s development in positive dimensions.

    For example, if more female interviewees, who are technically-gifted are interviewed and put before primetime audiences, then perhaps the series will inspire a new generation of female coders and online contributors. Young girls who will watch the documentary on TV or via iPlayer (and other online video facilities), alone or with their families+friends and go, “Whoa! Wow! How cool is code?! Plus I can make a difference online with my opinions and shape how society works! I want to learn how to do that! I can do it!”

    Then we’ll get closer to a Web that benefits from applying BOTH SIDES OF OUR BRAINS.

    Robert Peston recently interviewed Martha Lane Fox, the co-founder of lastminute.com. She noted that there are still not enough women in technology.

    * https://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8227870.stm

    She’s currently the government’s digital champion / tsar and could also be added to the list of possible interviewees. She’s not a known coder but understands the Web from a commercial perspective. Certainly, she could apply the BBCDigRev platform as a means to communicate to that generation and segment of the population that the UK sorely needs for its digital future.

    As for me, I need to go to the code bunker to produce something that will BLOW 5-STAR RATING SYSTEMS and the way online advertising works OUT OF THE WATER! Ha ha.

    Now, as for how it’s possible I can synch the resources and perspectives I do…………..

    Please bear in mind……..I’m neither AI nor cyborg, just Chinese: I Confucius, I code and I LOL @ incongruities.

    [Yes and I’m a digital native who doesn’t have the attention span of a mayfly, and the same applies to the BBCDigRev team and the contributors-lurkers here alike. You all made it…….here @ la fin of the neural “Fail Whale”, oui?

    Si (see). Revolution....360-2020.

    LOL. ]

  • Comment number 17.

    Typo on my part: Grace Murray HOPPER (as in Denis, the actor of 'Easy Rider' and as in Edward, the American realist painter of 'Night Hawks').

  • Comment number 18.

    You knew I was being silly, but send me your real address and I'll cut my ear off and mail it to you.

    Of course, a lot of cutting edge thinkers and artists are somewhat unstable and/or 'driven' - and this is something that makes me question the concept of addiction with regard to the internet. The element of compulsion may be very real, but is spending your time online the same as spending your time in a bottle? I think not.

    I liked SheffTim's comment about the simple definition of addiction being that it costs you more than money. Of course, your web-addiction may affect your relationships and productivity in the real world, but that is only bad if you agree that the real world is somehow more worthy of our time and energy. Is the daily grind preferable to chipping away at a rock until you reveal the figure that only you knew was imprisoned within it? Is a good job in the city really better than working your way through the ranks of a guild online? Why so? Are net-friends really worth less than the people around you in the physical world, the ones you don't really have anything in common with but have to make do with because that's how the real world works?

    Looking at it another way, is it better to spend your time in an environment built by people who really really want to tell you about what's important to them, instead of in one built by people who want to sell you something?

    I think it's difficult to understand the impact of the internet without taking a fresh look at the real-world environment: endless in-your-face advertising, for one, the way our democracies work for another.

  • Comment number 19.

    I wasn't very clear in the above post.

    The bulk of the stuff around us is created by average people, people who were not obsessing compulsively when they built the buildings or loaded the stuff onto the supermarket shelves.

    But is that true of the internet? Is more of it built by people who are really excited? Do they drive down the road thinking about what they're going to say to SheffTim on the DR blog when they get home?

    In the real world, the 'most important' stuff may be created by the highly-motivated people, and they probably drive down the road visualising new buildings or hearing their next hit song. (I think I read somewhere that Einstein did his most important work while cycling around Italy.) In fact, I found a reference to that happening: https://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html

    The key issue here is one of 'flow' - a state of extreme focus on some creative process. It's common for scientists to forget to eat, artists to neglect their physical needs, gamers to pee in a bottle, and my girlfriend just pointed out to me that I'm sweating profusely because I forgot to turn the a/c on and it's 36 degrees.

    So, I have to ask if the so-called addiction is in fact just another manifestation of humans in a state of flow. Are the addicts simply VanGoghs and Einsteins working in a new medium - one that many people in the real world don't see as important?

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm useless today. Still not clear.

    In the real world the majority of the environment is built by ordinary people who are not excited by their work. But there are a few geniuses with big impacts.

    Online, the majority of the environment is built by the people who care. There are also a great many people who don't care as much, but their impact is small.

    Many of the old-environment companies still think in terms that make it hard for them to function in an environment dominated by passion rather than apathy. I think this is also relevant to the discussion about the economy of the web.

  • Comment number 21.

    @TAIWANCHALLENGES --- I know you were being absurdist in the vein of that Monty Python sketch "She's a witch! She's a witch!" Often it's useful to examine arguments from a preposterous position to actually arrive at the gold nuggets. Still, we should all send BBCDigRev our ears --- ha ha.


    It's obvious the Web and its content isn't being created by loonies, just regular people passionate about either making it technically better / sharing their ideas with others / selling something for commercial gain. Of course, along the way SOME of them will be labelled in a "mad, bad and dangerous" Byronic way or as geniuses.

    If we examine the Web as a terrain similar to our real-life world, there are structures (i.e. sites) which could classify as "Wonders of the World" --- like Apple's seamless integration between OS-device-application; Google Earth; some of the MMORGs; the upcoming Papervision3D landscape and others. Then there are constructions which are the online equivalents of Las Vegas, the favelas of Brazil, out-of-town malls and trailer parks.

    Of course, some people might argue that Las Vegas is a "wonder of the world" because they managed to build an American dream in the desert and then the kingdoms of the Middle East would say, "Look at what we've done in Dubai, look at our Pyramids in Egypt and look at what's coming to Abu Dhabi by 2012 --- the Middle East's own Guggenheim and Louvre franchise. What is Las Vegas?! LED on a strip with little culture.'

    Yet Las Vegas and the favelas were built by people as passionate as the ones who built the Wonders. To them, for better or worse, it's........home.

    Our species does have a propensity to build in our own moulds whatever it is we regard as either functional, aesthetic, economic, social or ethical. To develop the Web to the point where all these qualities are in synergy would be when it becomes.....holistic.

  • Comment number 22.

    "My BAAAD" as US bloggers would say.

    Clearly, we also build for spiritual and romantic reasons (places of worship and the Taj Mahal being examples).


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